Greetings from a Chicago city girl! I’m a 20-year-old college girl from a suburb north of the great city of Chicago. Which probably makes you wonder what is this girl doing writing a blog post for Il Corn. Well I am here in the hopes of getting some help from you! I have always lived in a city atmosphere and that’s why I need your help. I love food and animals but I want to do more than just love it, I want to understand what goes into the food I eat and how it’s made! So here are my questions for you!

#1.  What do the animals eat?

Are there certain types of foods you feed different types of animals?  How many times a day do you have to feed the animals. I obviously understand that not all animals eat the same thing, but are there similarities or ways that you can go about incorporating the food one animal eats to others to save?


#2. Can you give more background to GMO’s?

I know GMO’s are genetically modified organisms, but I don’t really have background information on them and I believe other people have this same question. I know this is a common topic throughout the farming communities around the world and I have never gotten involved because I don’t have enough information.

#3. How did you get into farming?

I know this may be an obvious question but is this something that you just decided to do or was it a family tradition. Is farming the only occupation you have or do you just farm for fun?

#4. What crops go with each season?

I am always wondering what fruits and vegetables go which each season. Is there a specific reason certain crops go with certain seasons and why? What happens if the weather isn’t in the favor for that season, will there be issues for your farm?

#5.  How do you manage pests and diseases on your farm?

It must be hard trying to control everything on a farm. One cannot control the weather or Mother Nature and that can be a problem when it comes to animals and plants. How do you manage to keep things under control and how do you handle problems with your animals catching diseases and plants and crops being infected with pests.

Hope you can answer some of my questions! Thanking you in advance.

nikkiNicole Faber
Illinois State University Student


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”do what you can with what you have where you are

I believe that this quote applies to all of life and not just to agriculture but it really speaks to those who have to work on a farm day in and day out. Growing up on an animal farm and growing popcorn my family has never been well off. As some of you may know that animals drain your wallet and most of the time do not fill it back up. I am also one of eight children, so my parents’ main goal was to provide their kids with what they not and not what they want. My farm is not the ideal farm to live on. We have old machinery, broken fences, and not enough land. My family works harder than anyone I know and we are very close. We do not have nice things or everything that we need but we make do. I feel that this has brought my family closer, just because we do what we can with what we have and we enjoy it. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I love who I am because of it!

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”agriculture is our wisest pursuit

Thomas Jefferson knew what he was saying about agriculture when he presented this quote. Do you every see a grumpy farmer? No, you always see them chatting with everyone about their job because they love it and not just because of the money. Yes farmers may be doing pretty well today but that is not the only reason they keep farming. They do it for you and everyone else in the world. They know that if we didn’t have farmers we would not have three meals a day. When Jefferson said this he didn’t mean real wealth, as in money, he meant that it will bring you the wealth of pride in your industry because you are doing something fulfilling.

“Farming is not just a job, it’s a way of life.”

Many people today believe that farmers just farm because they chose that as a profession. In many cases that is not true, some farmers have other jobs but they farm because they know that that is the only way that we will be able to feed the world in the future. To put in into perspective, when you go to work you work from 8am to 5pm and then you go home and take the night off. Well a farmer does not have a day off, If you are a farmer “you punch in at 5, and never punch out.” They never leave the farm or take a break because there is always something to do and people to feed.

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.”I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds

This quote from E.M. Tiffany was written with a purpose, and that purpose was to encourage FFA members to keep believing in what the future holds for them. To me, it holds a special place in my heart. Not only because of my love for the FFA organization, but also because of how much it encourages me to stand up for what I believe in and to also keep sharing my passion of agriculture. I have learned that agriculture is the largest industry in the world but if you are not willing to work for it, it will fall. My dad also told me “you have to work hard for what you want.” I have lived by his words for many years. My family farm lives by this quote every day, as my dad pushes us to work every day on the farm, whether its cleaning out the barns, picking corn, or even just mowing the grass, all of those things play into the agriculture industry.

“It’s not about how bad you want it….it’s about how hard you are willing to work for it.”Its not about how badly you want it ...

Living on a regular farm or even just a hobby farm is never easy. No everything will go your way, especially the weather. You can’t just sit in the house and wish you had the perfect field or the perfect yield, you have to go out into the field and work with it. My dad always told me, “you get out of it what you put into it.” If you are not willing to put the time and money into your crop, when fall comes around and it’s time to harvest, you are not going to have the bumper crop that you wished for. Farmers work harder than anybody I know because they take pride in the land that they have and the people that they are going to feed from their bushels of corn or soybeans.

“Some of us grew up playing with tractors, the lucky ones still do”some of us grew up playing with tractors

This is one of my favorite agriculture quotes because it is true to anyone who grew up playing farm and still farms. I grew up with an older brother, so those of you who have an older brother know what that’s like. I never got to play with babies or Barbie’s, I was always playing farm with him. We would play farm everywhere, in the sandbox, on our living room floor, in the barn, and on our cement pad. We had more farm toys than you could imagine. As I got older farming got more exciting because I didn’t have to play with the fake farm toys anymore, I was able to drive the real things. I would be the one driving the tractor down the field, as my dad and brother picked the corn or I would be the one driving the truck hauling whatever out to my dad. It was way more exciting than just driving little toys around on the living room floor. If you grew up playing with farm toys, then it was inevitable that you still play with tractors, and tucks just at a larger scale

“To most people, this is just dirt. To a farmer, it is potential.”to a farmer, it is potential

Agriculture is more than dirt, plows, and tractors. Agriculture is the largest industry in the world and employs the majority of the workers in the United States. Where I’m from the soil is what keeps my family alive. We not only grow popcorn, but produce, which we eat and sell. Most people just think that fields are just “dirt,” which isn’t even the right term. Do you know the difference between dirt and soil? Soil is what farmers grow their crops in, dirt is what you sweep up off your kitchen floor. There are many uses for soil in growing the crops that produce your food. Soil provides the nutrients, holds the water that keep the cops alive, provide aeration for the cops, and provides that minerals that the cops need to grow. When my dad looks across his field of soil, he dreams about what he can do to make his crop bigger and more profitable for the next year. Many farmers look at it this way too. The soil in the fields is what makes the crops prosperous or not, so the next time you look at a field think about the potential that it might hold for the next year.

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven….a time to be born & a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

Agriculture is all wrapped up in the quote. Living on a farm you know that not everything happens all at once. My family farm has baby piglets born in the winter, we planted our gardens and popcorn fields in the spring, we harvest our garden throughout the summer, and we harvest our popcorn in the fall. When you live on a farm you realize that there is a time and a place for everything, and during every season there is something different going on.

See more photos like these on our Instagram account!

Mallory Blunier mallory
Illinois State University student


Food labeling is something I love to talk to people about. I love that we live in a society that gives us so many options when it comes to the food we choose to buy for our families, but some of these labels are entirely misleading. It has simply gotten out of hand in my opinion. Marketers are taking advantage of uninformed consumers and getting more money for a label that doesn’t exactly mean what it implies.

So, what can you do about it? Get informed. Be an educated consumer and don’t let food marketers take advantage of you and your hard-earned dollars!

food labels you shouldn't pay for

Here are 5 commonly misleading labels you should be aware of before paying extra:

  1. NATURAL- This label isn’t bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it might. In order to be approved for this label, the food must be minimally processed after In other words, any production methods can be used to grow the food (hormones, pesticides, genetic engineering, etc.). As long as it isn’t heavily processed afterwards, you can label it as natural.
  2. NO ADDED HORMONES- If you see this label on a chicken or pork product, it is absolutely meaningless. There is currently no synthetic hormone use in hog or chicken production at all; therefore, any chicken or pork you can buy is sans added hormones.
  3. CAGE FREE/FREE RANGE- Again, these labels aren’t bad, but they might not necessarily indicate what they imply. To qualify as “cage free,” chickens can roam freely in a building or room. This does free them from a cage, but exposes them to other chickens who often peck and cause injury to one another. As for “free range,” those same chickens would have unlimited access to the outdoors. You might be surprised to find that, regardless of their access to the outdoors, most chickens would opt to stay inside due to fear of predators.
  4. NON-GMO- This label is so widely overused. There are currently only 8 crops that are commercially available with GM varieties: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, alfalfa, squash, papaya, and sugar beets. If you are buying any other vegetable, this label simply isn’t relevant.
  5. PASTURE RAISED- The USDA definition for this label is as follows: “Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.” I think that one speaks for itself.

If there are any other labels you often look for and are curious about, visit the USDA’s website to see their definition of each label:

It’s always good to “know before you buy!”

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Communication Assistant


‘Tis the week to celebrate our Presidents … and their famous acts and laws that changed the face of agriculture forever!  Abraham Lincoln created the United States Department of Agriculture in 1862 and 153 years later we’re still benefiting from an agency that acts with agriculture’s best interests in mind.

This article originally posted here.  Enjoy!

On May 15, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing “at the seat of Government of the United States a Department of Agriculture.” Two and one-half years later, in what was to be his last annual message to the Congress, Lincoln said: “The Agricultural Department, under the supervision of its present energetic and faithful head, is rapidly commending itself to the great and vital interest it was created to advance. It is precisely the people’s Department, in which they feel more directly concerned that in any other. I commend it to the continued attention and fostering care of Congress.”

lincoln USDA

Lincoln’s own background was the pioneer farming and rural life typical of the outer edge of America’s westward-moving frontier.

His early years were spent on farms characterized by pioneer exploitation rather than by settled cultivation. The 300-acre tract in central Kentucky on which his log-hut birthplace stood was too poor to be called a farm. As a boy, he lived on a 30-acre farm. Because of hills and gullies only 14 acres could be cultivated.

In 1816, the Lincoln family moved to southern Indiana to 160 acres of marshy land. After 7 years, Lincoln’s father had 10 acres of corn, 5 of wheat, and 2 of oats in cultivation. The young boy was hired out to do general farm work, to split rails, and to work on a ferry boat. In 1830, the family moved to land along the Sangamon River in Illinois. Soon afterward, Lincoln left the family and began life for himself.

This farm background, on what was then the western frontier, and his years as a country lawyer made Lincoln, during the 1850’s, a representative of the frontier, the farmer, and small town democracy.

On September 30, 1859, Lincoln addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society at its annual fair in Milwaukee. This was the only extended discussion of agriculture he ever made. He began by praising agricultural fairs as a means of bringing people together. However, the main purpose of the fair was to aid in improving agriculture.

Lincoln spoke of the desirability of substituting horse-drawn machines for hand power, and the potential usefulness of steam plows. He urged more intensive cultivation in order to increase production to the full capacity of the soil. This would require the better use of available labor. Lincoln contrasted “mud sill” and free labor, identifying “mud sill” laborers as slaves or hired laborers who were fixed in that situation. Free laborers, who had the opportunity to become landowners, were more productive than the “mud sill” workers.

Free labor could achieve its highest potential if workers were educated. As Lincoln put it: “…no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.”

His endorsement of education and his belief that farmers’ interests were of primary importance indicated Lincoln’s interest in agricultural reform. After saying that farmers were neither better nor worse than other people, Lincoln continued: “But farmers, being the most numerous class, it follows that their interest is the largest interest. It also follows that that interest is most worthy of all to be cherished and cultivated — that if there be inevitable conflict between that interest and any other, that other should yield.”

When the Republican Party nominated Lincoln in 1860, two of the planks in the party platform were in accordance with ideas that had been advocated by westerners for many years. The first was the demand for a homestead measure. The second was advocacy of Federal aid for construction of a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. Two other proposals which had been advocated for many years — grants of Federal land for founding of colleges to teach agriculture and engineering and the establishment of a federal Department of Agriculture — were not mentioned in the platform. However, all four of the proposals were enacted into law in 1862.

Lincoln quote about USDAThe first of the measures to become law established the Department of Agriculture. In his first annual message to Congress on December 3, 1861, Lincoln said: “Agriculture, confessedly the largest interest of the nation, has not a department nor a bureau, but a clerkship only, assigned to it in the Government. While it is fortunate that this great interest is so independent in its nature as to not have demanded and extorted more from the Government, I respectfully ask Congress to consider whether something more can not be given voluntarily with general advantage…. While I make no suggestions as to details, I venture the opinion that an agricultural and statistical bureau might profitably be organized.” Instead of a bureau, Congress established a Department to be headed by a Commissioner. The act was so broadly conceived that it has remained the basic authority for the Department to the present time.

The Homestead Act, approved by the President on May 20, 1862, provided for giving 160 acres of the public domain to any American or prospective citizen who was the head of a family or over 21 years of age. Title to the land was issued after the settler had resided on it for five years and made improvements on it. The settler could also gain title by residing on the claim for six months, improving the land, and paying $1.25 per acre. The Homestead Act did not achieve all that its proponents had hoped, but it stood as a symbol of American democracy and opportunity to native-born and immigrant alike.

The act granting western land and making payments for the construction of the Union Pacific-Central Pacific railroad was signed by Lincoln on July 1, 1862. The two sections of the railroad joined at Promontory Summit, thirty-two miles west of Brigham City, Utah, on May 10, 1869. This completed a rail connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific and opened new areas of the West to settlement.

The Morrill Land Grant College Act, donating public land to the States for colleges of agriculture and the mechanical arts, became law on July 2, 1862. Every State accepted the terms of the act and established one or more such institutions.

After President Lincoln signed the bill establishing the Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862, he received much unsolicited advice, particularly in the columns of the farm press, on the appointment of the first Commissioner of Agriculture. Some urged the appointment of a distinguished scientist, others an outstanding “practical” man. A few periodical editors were certain that one of their number would be the best choice. However, Lincoln turned to Isaac Newton, a farmer who had served as chief of the agricultural section of the Patent Office since August 1861.

Newton was born in Burlington County, New Jersey. He grew up on a farm, and after completing his common-school education, became a farmer in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. Newton was a successful, progressive manager, whose farms were regarded as models. He also developed a pioneer dairy lunch in Philadelphia and a select butter trade as outlets for his farm products. Newton sent butter each week to the White House; and he and his family maintained a close friendship with the Lincolns. Subsequently, Lincoln gave him full support in managing the Department.

In his first annual report, Newton outlined objectives for the Department. These were: (1) Collecting, arranging, and publishing statistical and other useful agricultural information; (2) Introducing valuable plants and animals; (3) Answering inquiries of farmers regarding agriculture; (4) Testing agricultural implements; (5) Conducting chemical analyses of soils, grains, fruits, plants, vegetables, and manures; (6) Establishing a professorship of botany and entomology; and (7) Establishing an agricultural library and museum. These objectives were similar to the charges given the Department by the Congress in its legislation establishing the new agency.

Newton, during the nearly five years he served as Commissioner, made progress in achieving these objectives. The basis for a library existed in the book and journal collection of the Agricultural Division of the Patent Office. This collection, comprising about 1,000 volumes, was transferred to the new Department. Appropriations for library material began in 1864. The first librarian of record was Aaron Burt Grosh, a clergyman. Little is known of his library work. He is best remembered as one of the founders of the National Grange.

Although Lincoln’s primary problem during his Presidency was preserving the Union, the agricultural legislation that he signed was to transform American farming.

By Wayne D. Rasmussen
Chief, Agricultural History Branch (retired 1986)
United States Department of Agriculture


As I look out at the snow, the slush and the bare trees, it makes me want to stay inside and read.  What about a list of books with an ag link to get you through the winter?  Instead of just looking at classic children’s books, lets examine some young adult reading material that can easily be read in a couple of days …

war horseWar Horse by Michael Morpurgo, (ISBN 978-0-439-79664)  First published in 1982 recounts the life and times of Joey, a farm horse thrust into the middle of World War I.  If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book!

Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen (ISBN 13-978-0152058807)  A modest PG-13 rating for some mild language and some ‘boy’ humor, this is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young city boy spending the summer with his aunt and uncle in post World War II Minnesota.  Laugh out loud funny!

My Louisiana Sky by Kimbely Willis Holt  (ISBN 13-978-0312660956)  Surviving life in a small town in central Louisiana in the 1950’s.  The biggest threat isn’t just the hurricane, but parents that are both mentally challenged.  Small town themed food, jobs and concerns show the importance of good work ethic and family. 

and now miguel….and now, Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (ISBN 13-78-0064401432) This 1954 Newberry Award Winner has stood the test of time.  Miguel Chavez is a shepherd and is torn between his passion for sheep, and his family.

The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins.  (ISBN 13-978-0547577166)  Teenage cousins seemed to have struck gold by working on a rundown apple orchard.  Set in the mid 1980’s some of the 40-somethings will enjoy the cultural references of the kids that live in the country bur aren’t quite farmers….or ar they?

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez (ISBN 13-978-0375851230)  This novel explains the role of immigrant labor from the perspective of small farm family in Vermont.   Winner of the Belpre Medal in 2010 this examines a timely topic in agriculture today.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse  ( ISBN 13-978-0590371254)  This Newberry Award winner focuses on dust, dirt and the hard times of the Dust Bowl Era.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman  (ISBN13-978-05090511902)  Set in urban Cleveland, this story is about a vacant, run-down neighborhood that is transformed when one girl plans some lima beans.

a long way from ChicagoA Long Way from Chicago (ISBN 13-978-0141303529), A Year Down Yonder (ISBN -10-0142300705), and A Season of Gifts (ISBN 13-978-0142417294)  by Richard Peck.   While not a trilogy, these three books are closely linked with Mrs Dowdel.  Startling, hilarious and ever so true, Illinois Author Richard Peck sets these books in rural central Illinois.  I promise if you read them, you’ll pick out which neighbor is yours from the book….or are you one of the characters featured in the books?

These and many more books have a connection to agriculture and help us reinforce the message of agriculture in an ever changing world!   Take some time this winter and read a good book or two.

Daughtery_Kevin 2x2 10Kevin Daugherty

Kevin is the Education Director of the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program.  A voracious reader, he is currently reading The Rosie Project and Cubed: the History of the Workplace.  But he is always on the lookout for books with an ag connection!




I recently began taking a class called Soil and Water Conservation at Illinois State University where we have been learning about the importance of weather and erosion.  I’ve always been very curious to how weather depicts the lives of farmers.

When taking this class, I began to think about the content we were learning.  The Dust Bowl was a major reason to why farmers have changed their farming practices.  The Dust Bowl began in the nineteen thirties and it was the greatest American man-made phenomena of all time.  I learned that severe plowing of topsoil (which is about an inch of soil on the top of the ground) and no rain were tremendous factors to creating dust storms. I found that these storms changed the weather patterns that prevented rain to fall and plants to not be grown.


I saw that weather patterns changed because of such high storms which set in for ten years of no rain. These weather patterns made lives for farmers to live difficult to withstand during those times and today we look for ways to prevent weather changes from happening again.  I currently didn’t know how big the Dust Bowl event has forever changed the lives of farmers. Here are some reasons I found why weather is so important to farmers.

  1. Without the proper amount of water for a particular plant there can be devastating consequences. Farmers spend money on labor, seed, chemical, and equipment in hope to have the perfect plants for their year, but they have to rely on Mother Nature to provide them rain which is something not in their power.  Today, farmers use irrigation methods like sprinkle systems that shoot water into the air to water plants.  They have also found ways to conserve water by putting hoses near to the plants to have less water usage and more harvest results.
  2. Farmers have long tried to match the right plant type to plant in the fields to predict the weather. They have a certain type of plant that can withstand the weather in order to have a good harvest. For example, a harder plant type will want to be planted if the forecaster is predicting a dry summer.  Sometimes though the forecaster can be wrong and that can lead to a disastrous harvest.  Farmers have to rely on Mother Nature to decide their decisions for planting the right plant type in their fields.
  3. The forecast is the ultimate reason farmers are so concerned about the weather. If a farmer receives too much rain their plants can die from being drown.  There can also be causes of disease to the plant that can kill it and lead to all the plants to dying.  The forecast can also have consequences to overheating.  If a plant gets too much sunlight the plant can bake in the sun and burn to death.

Farmers worried during the Dust Bowl for rain to come and plants to grow just how they still do today.  I see now how much events from the past can help farmers change for the better in the future.  I  only hope that you can do the same and show others that what we implement in our lives today have  good and bad consequences long after we live. So let’s look for the best solutions moving forward each day and hope Mother Nature will forever be on our side. God Bless to All!

THEAThea Fruhling
Illinois State University Student